Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time to fight back against the slaughter of English

Some argue the language is constantly changing or, perhaps more correctly, evolving. It was only a few decades ago that we were still taught to write to-night and to-morrow, so one can imagine the consternation of a guardian of English when the hyphen was first dropped and the tonight and tomorrow became common usage.

Generally, the hyphen will eventually be dropped from an oft-used hyphenated word, and many people can accept that. Some argue that if you can see that one day the hyphen is going to be dropped, why use it in the first place (video-tape would be one example), especially in our rapidly changing world.

But things really are different today. With the lack of proper English teaching in elementary schools -- remember phonics? -- kids are being told it's okay to write incorrectly as long as there's enough information there for a reader to decipher the meaning. Text-messaging shortcuts creeping into everyday writing. It's no wonder more and more people are fighting back.

Take the current use of the word "anniversary," for example. How often is it used correctly these days? For the past decade its proper usage has slipped, as young people eager to celebrate a milestone in their relationship, talk about their "one-week anniversary" together rather than saying "we've been together for a week." From that forgivable slip by love-struck teens it has grown into common usage. Not willing to wait for anything anymore, it is common to hear "one-month anniversary" and "six-month anniversary." Heck, so many people (and this is in print or on TV) have forgotten the proper usage that it is now common to hear those who don't understand the word say "one-year anniversary."

Even worse, this morning I hear Evan Solomon on a CBC broadcast say "13th year anniversary" while promoting a segment on the end of the Bosnian War. If we have prominent broadcasters (on what is supposed to be a top-quality network) bastardizing the language, what hope is there of ever correcting the problem?

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